Four sophomores at Stockton University have been chosen as the first to take part in the Engelberg Leadership Scholarship Program, a $1 million commitment to fully fund their tuition and other expenses for three years.

Stockton's chief academic officer for the Atlantic City Campus, Michelle McDonald, says the pilot program will eventually help 12 students over the three years.

The first recipients are Elena Gonzalez, a literature major from Atlantic City; Bao Pham, a criminal justice major from Atlantic City and an immigrant from Vietnam; Steven Rubin, a computer science major from Ventnor; and Loukaia Taylor, a communications major from Atlantic City.

The four are all chosen on the basis of their inspired approach to learning and leadership.

"We see this as the beginning of an excellent academic community having to look forward to watching it grow," McDonald said. "They've had a lot thrown at them recently and I can say they have been handling it like pros."

The program was created through funding provided by New York attorney and philanthropist Alfred Engelberg and his wife, Gail. He grew up in Atlantic City.

"He sees this as a way of building the next generation of leaders for the city . That's why he was so focused on trying to make this opportunity for students who are from Atlantic City or graduated from Atlantic City High School," McDonald said.

Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5